Singapore has a problem with work.
After news broke that Sharon Au, who is now working in France, was reprimanded for sending emails at 8 PM, an article immediately appeared on Today to remind us that the notion of “after office hours” is not—and will never be—a thing in Singapore.
Outside mainstream media, discussions erupted over why is Singaporean work culture is so toxic and absurd. Is it because bosses don’t understand what “work-life balance” means? Or are bosses compelled to be assholes because Singaporeans are unproductive at work and are content being a salaryman?
But perhaps we don’t have to look far. Job ads, far from being an innocent solicitation, encode so many of the dysfunctional practices in our corporate culture today. We examine 7 types of job ads that exemplify what is wrong with the way that we, and corporations, view work today.
The Intern CEO
Looking for a fresh graduate (with more than 1-year’s worth of working experience) to run our company. You will be in charge of a hardworking team of more than 200 people of all nationalities. This is our APAC HQ so you need to be able to direct APAC regional growth strategy. Ideal if you are multilingual, fluent in Thai, Cambodian, Tagalog, Python, and Klingon.
Having previously masterminded the revival of Apple is desirable, but not mandatory.
Generous allowance of $500 a month.
You are still an intern. Don’t get ahead of yourself.
The Napoleon Complex
To work here, talent is not enough. You must be “relentlessly talented”.
What does that mean? It means you must have talent beyond talent.
People come up with ideas. You IDEATE.
Your ex-colleagues fulfil briefs and then sleep but you LUCID DREAM so you can CRACK & FRY creative briefs while still asleep. This is why they’re your EX-colleagues.
You don’t trust anyone who claims to be a perfectionist because PERFECTION DOES NOT EXIST. IT IS A CONSTANT FIGHT. To achieve that unattainable goal, you must be willing to sacrifice not just work-life balance, but your first-born child to HR.
If that sounds like you, please apply. We will get back to you within 8 weeks. 🙂
The Myers-Briggs Personality Test
Sometimes the route to enlightenment lies not in meditation, personality tests, or alcohol, but in job ads. Take the section of this ad, for example. It reads more like the results of an MBTI test you took one angsty night when you felt like no one understood you.
The results are both insightful and comforting.
No one understands you because you are nimble, curious, meticulous, well-organised, precise, fast, efficient, patient, firm, decisive, collaborative, independent, dynamic, energetic, creative.
No one, except the company behind this ad.
The Book Of Revelations
Don’t understand how to “create powerful synthesis” of “vertical modality synergies” to “drive high impact business decisions”?
Unsure of how to use “ethnography, semiotics, neuroscience techniques” to conduct research, let alone what “custom research leveraging upon best in class modalities” means?
Me neither. But that’s okay. We leave the deciphering of such scripture to thought leaders.
Which is a real thing. Really.
We work hard, but we also play hard.
We are a fun company. Everyone here is part of our fun-mily. If you OT, the boss will buy you a fun pizza with pineapples on top. This is a fun and exciting environment. Team bonding sessions are fun and compulsory. We have fun snacks in our pantry like Horlicks and Twisties. When you join us, you will be happy and cool and love fun like the rest of us.
The Highly Suspect and Pretentiously Cryptic
Saved the worst type of job ad for the last.
The other ads—while absurd and cryptic at times—were at least written in English.
This? Deals in vague, aspirational, grandiose language.
“Change culture through content.”
Despite the pretentious language, it is strangely entry-level, with no experience required beyond good communication skills.
Probably an organ-harvesting operation.
You apply anyway because you’re that desperate.
We millennials and Gen-Z strawberries want jobs that are fulfilling and aligned with our passions. Job ads, therefore, have evolved to speak in the language of ideals and personality. But they end up being caricatures of themselves.
Such a move is self-defeating. At the point of applying, nobody knows, anymore, what a job’s responsibilities and required skill set is. This creates a gap between the job seeker’s expectations and the reality of the job—and everyone who has taken basic economics classes knows that information asymmetry is a market failure.
For instance, I once signed up for a gig that called for “a visually literate and creative person” for “an opportunity to interact with visuals and exercise your individual judgment”. It turned out to be an admin position where I categorised thousands of photographs of houses into “bathroom,” “kitchen,” “bedroom,” etc., for a furniture catalogue.
I’ve even seen a company advertising a receptionist role as a “Front Desk Enthusiast”. (I don’t want to name and shame, so go Google it yourself.) Or take the recent Reddit post highlighting how a postman is called a “Parcel Ambassador” today.
With these kinds of bait-and-switch shenanigans, among others, originating right from our first encounter with the working world, is it really a surprise that the culture of work in Singapore is pretty messed up?
On the bright side, at least we now have a new, uniquely Singaporean genre of literature.
This article was written in collaboration with my colleague, Pan Jie.
Have you seen more ridiculous job ads? Would you like to work at RICE (not an organ-harvesting organisation)? Talk to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.